Face Music - Catalog - Uganda

  • Traditional Dances from Uganda - Vol. IV - VI

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 02-2017

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more information songs in German  

African music is nearly always coupled with some other art form, such as poetry, ritual or dance, and it constitutes one of the most revealing forms of expression of the African life and soul. They have a sense of rhythm. Some tribes combine dance and music, and they explain history and the social elements in a form like the theater of today. Dances were most of the time closely related with religion, ancestral worship and spiritualism.
We have to understand that there is an interaction between social and cultural background within different communities in Uganda. Every community or tribe has its own religious beliefs. All rituals are organised, with dances being performed by communities in order to worship or appease the gods, in order to ask for a good harvest before sowing, at the occasion of midsummer or midwinter festival, or just on the occasion of entering a new lunar phase. Or if there was need of rain. The gods were asked for fertility, or the people tried to appease the demons or diminish their influence. Everybody was invited to be present to honour the situation and to thank the gods.
These dances are part of everyday-life, they are old traditions, handed down from generation to generation, with a deep cultural background being present in a ceremony or a ritual to thank the gods, or they can constitute a local social interaction, such as the wedding party or the burial ceremonial for an important personality; courtship dance to bring together the new pairs, or ritual dances for a boy becoming a man; or it could simply be a gathering leading to a party with dance, or there has been arranged a party for guests, etc. Dance is also expression of joie de vivre.
Music plays an important role in African society. Music is an integral part of the life of every African individual and starts with his/her birth. Women also play an active role in music. Games are played in order to prepare children, young men or girls to participate in all areas of life - to be a man, mother, for their work, including fishing, hunting, farming, grinding maize, attending weddings and funerals or dances.
An intimate union forms the rule of life for man, woman and art in ritual. It amounts to a total communion that is shared by the whole community. The art of playing music is so inherent that it is superfluous to have a particular name for it. The drum is so important in the African society that it is sometimes equated with a man. The drum is a means of communication, and by means of it people give messages and inform other villages. Women must consequently treat it with the same respect that they would show towards men. In some African countries women are not even allowed to touch a drum under any circumstance. African music is nearly always coupled with some other art, such as poetry, ritual or dance, and it constitutes one of the most revealing forms of expression of the African life and soul.

- Members of the Naggalabi Indigenous Theater in costumes of the:

Acholi Acholi Banyoro Rwanda
Rwanda Banyoro Banyankore Bakiga

Harvest Celebration and Social Gathering Songs

1. Ding Ding - This is a social gathering dance of the Acholi people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, ululation
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), embuutu (big drum), whistle
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, adungu (bow harp), endingidi (tube fiddle)
- Fizzè - endere (flute)


  Ronnie Mwabaza - whistle

This is also a children play dance, and it is performed, when the sky in the Acholi land hosts the full moon. On the occasion of this, the children are not able to sleep early, as they are kept awake by the bright moonlight; they stay in their parents‘ courtyard and play. The run around and blow the wunderful whistle, which also attracts the neighbouring children who come along. Under the bright moonlight, the girls sing and dance, integrating everyday motifs and movements like jumping, bouncing and shaking their hips into their dances. Late at night, however, everybody will become tired and go to bed.
- This dances is performed by the young girls of the Acholi. The girls dance in order to attract the boy’s attention.

2. Nankasa, Baakisiimba, Muwogola - This is a social gathering dance of the Baganda people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, ululation
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, engalabi (long drum), embuutu (big drum)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, endingidi (tube fiddle), namunjoloba (small drum), ensaasi (shakers)

Is a traditional folk dance that originated in the palace of the King of Buganda, situated near by the Lake Victoria, the home of Nalubaale, the wife of Lubaale, one of the gods of the Baganda people.
A former Bugandan king (kabaka) greatly enjoyed the local beer, tonto omwenge. Tonto is made from banana plants, and the name is taken from the Lugandan word tontomera, which means, "Do not knock me over".
At one gathering, this king drank too much of the beer and became quite happy. (In Buganda, it is taboo to say that the king is drunk; you can only say that the king is very happy.) The king then started praising the people who had made the beer, saying abaakisiimba, which means "those who planted the bananas", and bebaakiwoomya, "they made it delicious".
The musicians at this gathering created an abaakisiimba rhythm that imitated the words of the king, who was so happy and relaxed that he began to move and dance. While the musicians mimicked the king's words on their drums, the women imitated the king's movements, which eventually became a dance that is now performed throughout Buganda by all generations. There are three major movements in this dance: the first is Nankasa, the second is Baakisiimba, and the third is Muwogola.

3. Agwara - This is a social gathering dance of the Lugbara people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, endege (ankle bells)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, adungu (bow harp), adungu bass (bow harp), endingidi (tube fiddle), embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

Is a dance of the Lugbara and Kebu people in the West Nile region, bordering the Congo and the Sudan. The dance got its name from the agwaras, the local trumpets. The men play these horns as the women dance.
Members of the cummunity are called to come together and participate in this dance. The name goes back to an instrument, the „agwara“, a transversely blown horn, the sound of which being similar to that produced by flies.
A story tells that many years ago the western Nile region was home to a very fast animal, living in the woods: the okapi, sometimes also called the forst giraffe, is a cloven-hoved animal of the family of the giraffid; it could not be hunted and killed by the hunters. Several months later, hunters found such a cadaver, covered by flies.“ngaanaaa” – this sound produced by the flies was similar to the sound of their trumpet „agwara“, a horn made of wood, wrapped by animal skin. This instrument is used as a signal horn and for playing melodies. Together with drums, it accompanies a dance; a dance imitating the movements of the hunters, who carefully sneak up in order to not frighten off the animals.


4. Tamena Ibuga - This is a harvest celebration dance of the Basoga people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, endingidi (tube fiddle), engolabi (long drum)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

Is a folk dance from the Busoga region in eastern Uganda. This dance is a sign of friendship and unity. Once there were two men who were such good friends that they shared everything in their life. One day, they went out to drink beer, which is traditionally served in a gourd. When they had had too much to drink, they began to argue, and this developed into a fight. The gourd that they were drinking from was broken in the fight, making matters worse and separating these two friends. The men's community recognized that a quarrel between these men would break up their friendship and affect the unity of the community, so they developed a dance to unite the people.

- This folk dance is still performed on the occasion of the harvest festival of the Basoga people.
This folk dance asks the community to not stop harvesting. In this dance, the cultivation of the lands and the good harvest are being praised. There is dance shaking the hips, without stopping. The neighbours say that the dancers are fortunate not having to stop shaking their hips and being able to dance with their hips. Men and women, young or old ones, love the locally brewed beer and the dance of shaking hips. This dance triggers emotions of happiness; the dancers must not stop monitoring the harvest, drinking beer and dancing.

5. Ekizino - This is a harvest celebration dance of the Bakiga people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - backing voice, namunjoloba (small drum), ensaasi (shakers), engalo (handclapping)
- Israel Kalungi - lead voice, backing voice, embuutu (big drum), engalo (handclapping)
- Fizzè - endere (flute)

The weather in this region is similar to that of many European mountain countries, and the region is often called the "Switzerland of Africa". During colder seasons, Ekizino is the warm-up dance. Kigezi is a hilly region, the men who go out for farming early in the morning, must jump around for a while to get warm and also stretch their muscles after the hard work. Traditionally, the people also used to stamp the ground until they found signs of water. Therefore, this dance represents their jumping and stamping.
The Bakiga dance also when they are happy, after a successful harvest, and when their storage chambers are fully stocked, with potatoes and onions.
After the men of the village have taken the harvest home, they go and visit other farms where there are then being hosted festivities where they eat and drink the locally brewed beer. As it is extremely cold, they dance and sing in order to overcome the chilly temperatures. While they are jumping up and down rather strongly, there are developed grooves in the ground. In this way, the strongest men show that they are the strongest. During the season to come, there will be provided the opportunity of revance; then they want to show their friends in their farmyards that they are able to jump even higher, making deeper grooves into the ground.

Bwindi region

6. Ekitaguriro - This is a harvest celebration dance from the Banyankore people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - backing voice, akacence (shakers)
- Israel Kalungi - lead voice, backing voice, embuutu (big drum), endere (flute), binyege (rattles)

This dance comes from the Ankole region. It is an old dance for both men and women. It is occasionally performed to demonstrate the love of the Ankole people for their cattle. This cattle breed has very long horns so making the dance aerial. The singing in this dance is similar to the sounds of the cow. You can even hear the sounds of the milk flowing from the udder of the cow in this dance. The flute that is played during the dance is the same that is used to herd cattle. The stamping movements of the men in this dance are similar to the walking movements of a cow, and the hands of the women just demonstrate the long beautiful horns of the cow.
These people include two tribes: the Bahima who breed cattles and are nomadic pastoralists and the Bahia who are farmers. However, the majority of the Bayankore are Bahima, the cattle breeders. It is them who perform this dance.
The dance appreciates the beauty of the cows which is why the dance songs start with heroic recitations, sounds of cows creating the melody. During the harvest and when the cows are grazing, the people play music and dance. The heroic variation appreciates the beauty of the cows and Bahima women.

Courtship and Wedding Songs

1. Akogo - This is a courtship dance of the Iteso people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, ululation
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, embuutu (big drum), ensaasi (shakers)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), endingidi (tube fiddle), embuutu (big drum)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, adungu (bow harp), akogo (thumb piano), namunjoloba (small drum)
- Fizzè - endere (flute)

Is a courtship dance from the Teso region in northeastern Uganda. This dance shares characteristics with the Larakaraka ceromonial dance from the Acholi, and it is similar to the Runyege courtship dance of the Batooro. The music for this dance, however, is played more softly on melodic instruments such as the thumb piano (akogo) and the flute (endere).
In the first verses of this dance song, all members of the community are invited to participate in this courtship dance of the two lovers in order to be witnesses. Also other participants have the chance to find partners for marriage in this dance. The melody „call to the courtship dance“ is closely associated with sociality and fun for all participants.

2. Larakaraka - This is a courtship dance of the Acholi people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, ululation

- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice

- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), embuutu (big drum), whistle

- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, adungu (bow harp), namunjoloba (small drum), agwata (percussion gourds)

  Israel Kalungi - adungu Israel Kalungi - agwata

Is a ceremonial dance from the Acholi, who have borders with the Sudan. It is primarily a courtship dance that is performed during weddings. When the young people in a particular village are ready for marriage, they organize a big ceremony where all potential partners meet. As a sign of friendship, food and alcoholic drinks are served during this ceremony. Only the best dancers will get partners, so there is a lot of competition during the dancing. In Acholi, if you are a poor dancer, you are likely to die as a bachelor.
In this song, children, teens and also the elder generation are called to gather together in order to celebrate the annual courthip. In this song there is explained how one can attract girls in order to make them fall in love and later on marry them. There is further given an explanation how important a good character is for a good marriage, how future wives are found for a responsible and good partner, and how these futher wives are to be treated in their marriages.
When teenagers make the experience of the harmony in this dance, then they believe that their dance partner will also make a good partner for their life.

3. Mbaga - This is a wedding dance of the Baganda people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, endege (ankle bells)
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, endingidi (tube fiddle), engalabi (long drum), embuutu (big drum)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, endingidi (tube fiddle), namunjoloba (small drum), ensaasi (shakers)

This folk dance is performed in Central Uganda by girls who have reached the age of 18 years in order to prepare them for the task of being a wife, mother and nurse and teacher of children in their marriage.

In the text, the bride is informed on her future role as wife and mother, she is given information about the duties and tasks she has to perform in her furture marriage; how she is to serve her future husband, to give birth to children and raise them; how to manage housework, doing the laundry, and also working on the fields. These tasks are depicted in the dance by means of motives.

Sylvia Namulema Kigula - Aisha Nakato - Ronnie Mwabaza - Israel Kalungi

4. Runyege - Entogoro - This is a courtship dance of the Banyoro people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, yodelling

- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice

- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), endingidi (tub fiddle), engalabi (long drum), embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

- Israel Kalungi - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), embuutu (big drum), binyege (rattles)

  Ronnie Mwabaza - binyege

Is similar to the Larakaraka dance of the Acholi people.

This is a ceremonial dance of the Bunyoro and Batooro Kingdoms. It is also a courtship dance performed by the youth when it is time for them to choose partners for marriage. The dance was named after the rattles (binyege / ebinyege / entongoro) that are tied on boys' legs to produce sounds and rhythms. The sound produced by rattles is more exciting as it is well syncopated as the main beat is displaced but everything blends with the song and drum rhythms.
In this culture, people believe that the best dancer represents the best married life. Once upon a time, there was a problem in the Kingdoms when more than 10 men wanted to marry the same beautiful and good-looking girl. What happens is that a very big ceremony is organized and all the male candidates have to come and dance. The girl had to choose the best male dancer. In this culture it is believed that the best dancers also show the best marriage life. It is also to see who is the strongest among the men as families in Africa do not want to give their beautiful girls to weak men, for when there is a period of drought or famine, one should have a husband who will really struggle to see that he looks for water and food. So in this dance the man who gets tired first, loses first and that who dances till the end wins the game. There was a problem when some girls wanted to get married to particular men and these were the men who got tired first - what a pity! The girls did not have a choice, as their parents decide for them whom to marry. The dance also indicates who is the strongest man, and families do not want to give their beautiful daughters to weak men who will struggle to provide food and water when there is a drought. So in this dance, the man who gets tired first loses, and the man who dances until the end, wins. A girl may want to marry a man who gets tired early in the dance, but she has no choice but to marry the winner.

5. Ekaro - This is a wedding dance of the Karimojong people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embuutu (big drum), endege (ankle bells), engalo (handclapping)

This region has a high proportion of migrants from Kenya and the southern Sudan, who are married to Uganda people. They have remained to a great part nomads and pastoralists, frequently being involved in fights over their cattle. They have an aggressive character, which is typical for their nature and origin. The region is very hot and hilly. The Karamoja land has rich gold ressources, and, in spite therof, the region is only little developed. This region constitutes an interesting cultural area having strange dances and songs.
This song tells about a young Karimojong who falls in love with a girl. He takes her home and is ready to start negotations with her parents in order to make her his wife. The girl, however, rejects his proposal. But no other man will ever marry the girl as she no longer is a virgin.

Karimojong village entrance

6. Ekoche - This is a courtship dance of the Langi people.

- Aisha Nakato - backing voice, ululation
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, ensaasi (shakers)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - backing voice
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

The Langi people are different from the Acholi in their dialect, even though they all live in northern Uganda. This dance song tells of the duty of the men to protect their country, their women and their property against invaders.
The dance is also about the fate of a Langi man who has trouble to find himself a wife.

War and Ritual Songs

1. Bwola - This is a war dance of the Acholi people.

- Aisha Nakato - backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - lead voice, backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, embuutu (big drum), whistle*
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum), endege (ankle bells)

* The use of the whistle is to signal changes of the dance motif.

Is also a court dance (in the king's palace) of the Acholi, which live in the north of Uganda. This is a circular dance that is performed by the older men and women, and the circle represents a fence that surrounds the palace court. Many events and conversations take place during this dance, so it may last for many hours.
It is performed at the royal court to show how men can protect all the people in their communities from evils that might attack them. It is done in a cirular form with dancers and singers, both young and old in a first circle inside.
The outer circle is always composed of strong men (warriors) who perform movements of bravery, shouting determination to die fighting anyone who invades their community. All songs praise the men (warriors) who are as tough as lions.

2. Amaggunju - This is a royal dance of the Baganda people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice, ululation
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, engalo (handclapping)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, engalabi (long drum), ensaasi (shakers)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embutuu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

Is a folk dance of the Baganda that also developed in the palace of the king.

At one time King Mulondo died without leaving any heirs. Fortunately, he left behind many wives who were expecting, so the medicine men and traditional witch doctors urgently searched for a wife who was pregnant with a boy. (It was taboo for the kingdom to be ruled by a woman). One of the wives, Namulondo, was expecting a boy, so she sat on the throne, and the people understood that it was not her who was ruling, but her unborn son. When this prince was born, he ruled as he lay on the throne. Kings in Buganda, however, are not supposed to cry, as this would bring curses and bad luck to the kingdom. Therefore the uncles and aunts of the young prince created the amaggunju dance to keep the baby smiling. The men put "ankle bells" on their legs, and the sound that the bells made as the men danced kept the prince happy. Originally, this dance was only to be performed by people of the Obutiko or Mushroom clan, and only in the palace.

3. Otole - This is a war dance of the Langi people.

- Aisha Nakato - backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - lead voice, backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - backing voice, engolabi (lead drum), whistle
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, namunjoloba (small drum), endege (ankle bells)
  Ronnie Mwabaza - whistle

As told in this war dance, men as well as women are ready to defend their tribe against an attack. Equipped with weapons like spears, axes and bush knives (pangas) and daggers, they are ready. The women support their men. They signal the attacks and provide their men with new weapons. Men as well as women defend themselves together against attacks in conflicts among the tribes in the north.

Members of the Naggalabi Indigenous Theater in costumes of Langi warriors - from left to right: Richard Kasume, Eric Jjemba Lutaaya, Fred Lutwaama
and Kalungi Israel

4. Mwaga - This is a ritual song of the Bagisu people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, endege (ankle bells)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, engalabi (long drum)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, adungu (bow harp), akogo (thumb piano), embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

Is a ceremonial initiation dance of the Bagisu people, who live in eastern Uganda on the border to Kenya. They believe that for a young boy to become a man, he must be circumcized in a ceremony that is reflected in the dance.
Before this initiation, the young boy must dance for 21 days, and only then will he possess the spiritual powers with no fear and become a man. If a man, even an elderly one, does not go through this ceremony, he will never be referred to as a man, and he will never earn the respect of the community. He will actually be cursed until the spirits force him to perform this ceremony.

The Bamasaaba (Bagisu) are famous for their traditional male circumcision ceremonies, held every year. This ceremony is an important cultural link between the local people around Mt. Elgon. Today during the three-day-ceremony of dancing, visiting friends and family, feasting and receiving gifts, preceded by a couple of months of preparations, e.g. bamboo strips being handed down to the candidate by the eldest uncle on the father's side in order to symbolize the responsibility and strength needed to face the challenge of manhood, the candidate is decorated with skins and waves two black and white colobus monkey tails in the air as he is accompanied in his running across villages. A combination of sounds, including the ringing of bells attached to the candidates, fiddles, flutes, and group songs, makes this event memorable to anyone watching. Intricate rhythms are played on different traditional drums of differing pitching, and this creates and often stimulates the dancing of everyone present. The person undergoing circumcision is accompanied in the running across the villages, and at the end of it he must be strong and he is not expected to make noise (scream) during circumcision, as otherwise the family will be very embarrassed. It is of great importance for the candidate to "quietly" stand strong during the circumcision to show that he is capable and ready to become a man. The initiates are admitted into adulthood after this ceremony and are expected to begin their formal contribution to the growth of their respective communities. Unlike the Bagisu, the Sebei also circumcise women.
  Bagisu people - male circumcized ceremony

5. Empango - This is a worship dance of the Batooro people.

- Aisha Nakato - backing voice, akacence (shakers)
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - backing voice, embuutu (big drum)
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp)
- Israel Kalungi - lead voice, backing voice, adungu (bow harp), embuutu (big drum), namunjoloba (small drum)

This dance is like a procession and worshipping ceremony for the king. The king who is like a god is shown deepest respect. In this way, respect is also shown to the royal family as well as the entire court.
Such a ceremonial dance is also performed in other royal palaces by the king’s subjects in great grace.

6. Ekimandwa - This is a worship dance of the Bakiga people, which is still being dance by the Banyankore people.

- Aisha Nakato - lead voice, backing voice
- Sylvia Namulema Kigula - lead voice, backing voice
- Ronnie Mwabaza - lead voice, backing voice, namunjoloba (small drum), ensaasi (shakers)
- Israel Kalungi - backing voice, embuutu (big drum)

This is a religous dance of the Bahiru people, a worship dance for the god Okubandwa. Kimandwa is derived from the word „emmandwa“ and means the spirits that people get possessed with during the dance performed in this ritual. They believe that sanity (sacrifices) and happiness (joy and love) which they present with this dance place god in a good relationship with the community.

Baganda people

The Baganda people make up the largest ethnic group in Uganda. (The name Uganda, the Swahili term for Buganda, was adopted by British officials in 1884 when they etablished the Uganda Protectorate, centered in Buganda).
They speak a Bantu dialect called Luganda belonging to the Niger-Congo family. Like many other African languages, it is a tonal language which means that some words are differentiated by means of pitches. Words that are spelled in the same way, however, have a different meaning. It is a language that is rich in metaphors and proverbs. Buganda is located in central Uganda and it is a region of the Baganda people. Its centre is Kampala city. Buganda's boundaries are marked by Lake Victoria in the south, the Victoria Nile River on the east, and Lake Kyoga on the north. The kingdom comprises 52 clans. At present it is the largest of the traditional kingdoms.
Their music is mainly slow with more emphasis on a regular meter. It is composed of contrasted lyrics and yodles (flactuating vocal lines). Since they are of Negroid origin, they have a huge variety of song forms such as; lullabies, historical songs, work songs, ceremonic songs, praise the kings (royal songs), wedding songs, etc. Their scale is purely pentatonic. Most of the vocally lines are in a responsarial form, solo form and chorus form. Since these songs are vocal dominant, they are basically meant to deal with social transformation. Funerals are major ceremonial and social events.

Basoga people

The Basoga - before the arrival of the Europeans, they had been subsistence farmers who also kept cattle, sheep, and goats. They commonly maintained gardens for domestic use close to the homestead. Busoga is located right at the source of River Nile in the East, and this is where the Basoga tribe lives. Its nucleus is Jinja town.
Early inhabitants of this region were Nilo-Hamitic tribes like the Langi und Iteso as well as the Bagisu (a Bantu tribe). Subsequently, the Basoga who had immigrated from the East expelled them and also adopted their traditions and lifestyle. The clan chiefs defined daily life in the society, and they distributed land for cultivation.

Bagisu people

The Bagisu is located in the eastern region of Uganda near Mt. Elgon to the border to Kenya. It is the place of the Bagisu tribe whose origin lies with the Negros. Its nucleus is Mbale town. They occupy the well-watered western slopes of Mount Elgon, where they grow millet, bananas, and corn for subsistence, and coffee and cotton as cash crops. This area has the highest population density in the nation, as dense as 250 per sq km. As a result, nearly all land is cultivated and land pressure has led to the migration of the population and to social conflicts.
Ancestral worship and magic are common. The people either tried to ban evil by means of magic, or they contacted a medicine man prescribing herbs for the cure of illness and disease. Men as well as women having spiritual power were consulted or asked to avert a prevailing threat by means of ritual acts. Ceremonies with sacrifical offering were performed in order to appease the spirits or simply to thank them for a good harvest. Oracles were often consulted. The administration of justice was based on magical signs. Wedding rites (it was allowed to marry several women) and the circumcision of men are still alive today. Agriculture like the cultivation of land in combination with the breeding of livestock was also common. Unique is only the breeding of donkeys for the transport of goods, which in Africa are usually carried by women on their heads.
Their vocal lines are rhythmically complex with many variations, and they are characterised by the hexatonic scale. The music is mainly fast with characteristics being similar to that of the Buganda.

Batooro - Banyoro people

The people of Bunyoro are known as Banyoro (singular Munyoro). They belong to the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara in western Uganda, in the area to the immediate east of Lake Albert. Their cultural leader is the omukama (king). Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom is the districts of Hima, Masindi and Kibale. The native language is Runyoro-Rutooro, a Bantu language. Runyoro-Rutooro is also spoken by the people of Toro (Batooro) Kingdom, whose cultural traditions are similar to those of the Banyoro.
They were polygamous, and the dowry was often paid after several years of marriage. Death was usually attributed to sorcerers, ghosts and other non-human agents. Death was the result of action on the side of bad neighbours, provided with a vast range of magical and semi-magical means of injuring and even killing others. Indeed, many deaths were attributed to the act of sorcery by ill-wishers. They celebrated the new moon and an annual ceremony called "empango". The basis of the kingdom was the family head "Nyineka". Each village had an elder chief known as "Mukuru w'Omugongo".
Guests were always welcome and always regaled with something, even if they arrived after midnight. Their craftsmen were also very talented, and there was a flourishing trade in durables with the regions outside the kingdom. The blacksmiths working metal were also well-respected, especially for their production of hoes for the cultivation of the fields.
The melodies are based on a constant meter with two distinctive rhythms (runyege and entongoro). Their vocal lines are characterised by massive yodelling (melismatic lines). Their music is mainly responsorial in nature. They are the origin of Bushmen and Negro people, and their music is clearly pentatonic.
At times, their vocal lines are polyphonous.

Bantu houses are made of a double layer of plaited bamboo filled with clay

Banyankore people

Their vocal music is characterised by old type poetry recitals which in many cases signfy bravery, elongated vocal lines in imitation of the mowing cattle. Their vocal melodies are mainly responsorial in nature and at times polyphonous.
The Ankole region, also referred to as Nkole (Nyankore), is one of the four kingdoms in Uganda. It is located in the southwest of Uganda to the west of Lake Edward. The Ankole people was usually known as Kaaro-Karungi, and the expression Nkore is said to have been adopted during the 17th century following the devastating invasion of Kaaro-Karungi by Chawaali, the then Omukama (king) of Bunyoro-Kitara. The word Ankole was introduced by the British colonial administration to describe the greater kingdom which was formed by adding to the Nkore realm the former independent kingdoms of Igara, Sheema, Buhweju, and parts of Mpororo.

It is ruled by a monarch (mugabe = king). The Banyankore people also belong to the Bantu groupe and are great cattle keepers. They breed long white-horned cows that give beef, milk and other products and are most prestigious for the farmers. The breeders are so proud of their cattles, so that they own them in large numbers and these animals exert great influence on their daily life routine, especially in rituals, music and dances. Many songs are about cows. Poetry comprises songs that tell of men who own large herds, tell about their individual abilities and their special tradition in authorities within the society; brave, wealthy, great warriors and owners of beautiful women.

Blacksmoth - workshop Pottery

Bakiga people

Kigezi is located in the far south western part of Uganda, and it is the home of the Bakiga tribe. Its nucleus is Kabale and Kisoro town. The early Bakiga are also descendants of the Hamites. Kigezi is referred to as the coldest part of Uganda.
Today's Bakiga are Bantu who immigrated in modern time and have mixed since then with the tribes already living there. They have a system of clans which is hierarchically structured. It is certain that they have also adopted some Hamitic structures. When a girl got married, the parents had to pay a dowry, and the groom's father or uncle decided. Marriage within the same clan was not allowed, but it was, however, possible to marry several women. Divorce was also legal.
Their highest god was the creator of heaven and earth: he was called Ruhanga (such as with the Banyankore). In addition, there was the Nyabingi cult who was much more common. The people erected special shrines (endero) and made sacrifices in the form of food (roasted meat) and beer. They also practised worship and manufactured cult objects (fetish figures). In addition to the person of the medicine man there was also the rainmaker. A healer or his medium cured illnesses and diseases. The ancestors were asked for advice. Convicted persons were forced to commit suicide: they either hanged themselves in the woods, or they had to jump from high rocks. Murderers were buried alive in their victim's graves.
The Bakiga were rather farmers than livestock breeders, and they were also excellent craftsmen, skilled, for example, in the art of pottery. They also produced household articles such as carpets, rugs, chairs, millstones, etc. The work was always accomplished as a community. Apart from handicraft works, the people also had to fulfill their chores in connection with cultivating land and erecting huts. The men were excellent hunters and also warriors. The blacksmiths melted iron and rather early manufactured knives, spears and also work tools which they were generally renown for.
They also excelled in brewing beer from corn (omuramba), which was, however, only brewed for festivities and rites. On such occasions drums, horns and also the zither (harp – ennanga) were being played. They were wonderful zither players, either performing as soloists or in ensembles.
The Bakiga music was energetic, as the people tried to warm up their body because of the cold weather. Their melodies are characterised by solo singing, chorus and at times responses. The vocal lines of the men and women are in polyphonic style, and they tend to create a counter-point effect.
African zithers have a boat-shaped sound box with a fairly long wooden neck, which enters the resonator. Ancient painting depict these instruments, often in the hands of women.

Iteso people

They speak a Nilotic dialect and belong, together with the Karimojong tribe, to the Atkerin group (Hamites). Today they live in the Pallisa and Tororo district in the eastern part of Uganda, some of them in the Soroti and Kumi district. They believe that their ancestors came in the first half of the 18th century BC from Ethiopia (Abessinia) and had passed through Karamoja land in the east. Historians modified that they belong to the Nilo-Hamitic group (Lwo) and have the same origin as their neighbouring tribes, the Langi, the Karimojong, the Jie and the Kumam, who also came from the north and are now settling in this area.
The clan forms the basis of the social and political unit (commune). It controls administrative and judicial matters. Originally, there were nine clans, with each clan having a leader called Aplon ka Ateker. These were usually elected by other elders at a merry ceremony know as airukorin. The leaders had to present magnificent leader characteristics in order to being able to assume the function of a leader of the people. The leader acted as an arbitrator in the event of disputes and was greatly respected. These titles, however, were not hereditary. The leader of the clan was assissted by a council of elders known as Airabis or Aurianet. They sat court for cases like murder and debts. After setting a dispute, a ceremony known as epucit or aijuk was performed, whereby a bull was offered and killed, roasted and eaten. This was intended to act as a gesture of renewed co-operation between the two parties. The appropriate compensation in form of a cow or a girl would then be handed over.
The social system was centred around the clan, and they shared similar cultural elements with neighboring tribes like the Langi and the Karimojong. They were also influenced by their neighbors, the Bantu, particularly the Basoga people.

Acholi people

The Luo are part of the people from the southern Sudan. The migration brought changes during the 15th century with the Acholi people and with intermarriage. They lost the system of pastoralism and began to speak Luo. Their origin were not the Luo but rather the Nilo-Hamites.
The Acholi had a central government with a representative who was called Rwot (leader). He ruled and held court over life and death for his subjects. He was also the mediator between ancestors and the people.
Acholi folk music is, like most Ugandan music, pentatonic. It is distinctive with choral singing, in parts with a lead voice. Songs are also accompanied by a string instrument, the harp-like adungu and numerous percussion instruments.
The vocal lines of the songs of men and women are in polyphonic style, and they tend to create a counter-point effect. Songs are performed at various occasions. The singing is melodic, and dances are performed collectively. Solo dancing is rather rare. The Acholi have various kinds of dances: Various dances are performed on certain occasions like, for example, birth, funeral, wedding, rituals (ancestral worship), beginning of a hunt, victory over enemies) and the celebration of the seasons (for example, thanksgiving).

Lugbara people

The Madi-Moro group comes from the Sudan and speaks an Eastern Central Sudanic language. They have settled in the north over a period of several centuries. This group includes the Lugbara, Metu, Madi, Okebu and a few small groups; now they live in the northwestern corner of today's Uganda.
The Lugbara live in the highlands on an almost treeless plateau that forms the watershed between the Congo River and the River Nile. The Madi live in the lowlands to the east. The two groups both speak nearly identical languages and have strong cultural traditions. Both groups grow millet, cassava, sorghum, legumes, and a variety of root crops. Chicken, goats, and, at higher elevations, cattle are also important. Beer is brewed from corn, and the people also grow tobacco. They were organised in clans, and their supremeleader was called Opi. He had to be a descendant of immigrants. He also often was the rainmaker. Land and livestock were appropriated to him. He decided on rituals and he decided when it was time to harvest. Jurisdiction was only valid when several clan leaders agreed upon the decision. It was further possible to pay off one's guilt. The father was only the head of his own family, and everybody had to obey his decisions.

Alur people

The Acholi, Langi, Alur and some other smaller ethnic groups belong to the group of the Western Nilotic language, all together making up about 15% of the overall population. Most of the West Nilotic languages in Uganda are called Lower Nilotic, and they are closely related to the language of the Luo in Kenya. The two biggest ethnic groups, the Acholi and the Langi, speak nearly identical languages. Acholi is situated in the northern region of Uganda, this constituting also the home of the Acholi tribe. Its centre is Kitgum town. The tribe is a mixture of Negroids and Hamites. The Alur, who live in the western areas to the Acholi and the Langi, have a similar culture as the neighbouring societies of the West Nile area, where the majority of the people speak a Central Sudanesic language. The area West Nile is situated in the northwestern part of the country, where the tribes of the Kebu, Ondrosi, Lugbara, Kakwa and Alur have found a home, with their origin going back to the Hamites. The centre is the town Arua.
- The Luo are the River-Lake Nilotes: Acholi, Alur, Jonan and Jopadhola.

Langi people

The Langi lost their Ateker language and migrated closer to the Lake Kyogo in the 18th century after living more than two hundred years in the Acholi region. They lost the system of pastoralism and began to speak Luo. Their origin were not the Luo but rather the Nilo-Hamites.

Karimojong people

The Karimojong tribe speaks a Nilotic language and belongs, together with the Iteso and some other small tribes around them (Jopadhola, Sebei, Kumam), to the Atkerin group (Hamites). They settle in the northeastern part of Uganda in the Kotido and Moroto districts. Here it rains only scarcely, and this is why there is performed mainly pastoralist economy. They conserve a distinct group with some elements of their cultural heritage. The mode of living is based on traditional stock without intercultural adaptations. Most people supplement their pastoral economy with crop cultivation, which is mostly in the hands of the women.

- more information about regions you will find under projects: Uganda the country and the people.

Aisha Nakato - Ronnie Mwabaza - Israel Kalungi - Sylvia Namulema Kigula


Adungu bass

- Adungu - bow harp - arched harp - string instument

The adungu is a nine-string arched (bow) harp of the Alur people of northwestern Uganda. It is very similar to the tumi harp of the neighbouring Kebu people, and it is also used by the Lugbara and Ondrosi tribes in this northwestern region around the Nile. The harp is used to accompany epic and lyrical songs, and it is also used as a solo instrument or within ensembles. Players of arched harps have had a high social status and are included in royal retinues. Nowadays they also play in churches.

The adungu consists of an arched neck, a wooden resonator (sound box) in which the neck is fixed, and a series of parallel strings of unequal lengths that are plucked. The strings are fixed at one end to the resonator and run at an oblique angle to the neck, where they are attached and tuned with pegs.

The first, second, and third strings are tuned in octaves with the sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively. In traditional music the instrument is tuned in a pentatonic (five-note) scale, but it can also be tuned in modern style to a diatonic scale.

- Ennanga - Nanga - wooden zither - string instrument

This instrument was brought to Uganda by the Hamites and is common among the Bakiga and Acholi tribes. This string instruments emphasize the narrative and story-telling tradition of the people. Love songs, praise songs, epics, dirge songs and humorous songs.

African zithers have a boat-shaped sound box with a fairly long wooden neck, which enters the resonator. Ancient painting depict these instruments, often in the hands of women.

The ennanga is strictly a solo instrument and has eight strings, which run above a wooden trough. A zither is an instrument in which the strings run parallel to the resonator, which extends the entire length of the strings.

- Endingidi - tube fiddle - one-string-fiddle - string instrument

This instrument is popular in the Buganda, Busoga, Ankole, Kigezi, western Nile, and Acholi regions. It consists of a single string, which is attached to a flexible stick and will sometimes have a resonator. Unlike other single-string instruments, it is played with a bow.

- Endere - flute - wind instrument

The flute is widely popular in all regions of Uganda with five fingerholes. It is played both as a solo and accompaniment instrument.

The instrument is blown at the slightly V-shaped slit end of the instrument, usually with four finger holes. The instruments are not played to accompany dancing, the people use them to play smooth melodies for the grazing cattle or to interpret love songs. In Buganda it can be played solo, in a duet or in small ensembles.

- Enkwanzi - panpipe - wind instrument

The enkwanzi or oburere is a panpipe that comes from the Busoga region and is made from elephant grass or bamboo. They are stopped flutes, meaning that the node of the plant stops the hollow tube and thus determines the pitch of the pipe. The tubes are arranged from lowest to highest and laced together with string. The open rim at the top of each tube is cut at a right angle to the tube so that the player may blow

.Agwara - side blown horn - wind instrument

These come from the Lugbara and Kebu tribes of the western Nile region and are played in groups of seven or more. These side-blown horns sometimes have a single fingerhole, which is used for grace-note ornaments.

The instruments of the Iteso and Karimojong people are made of cow horns and have only one mouthpiece; they are only used for communicating or giving signals.
Instruments, which produce sound through a vibrating column of air, are called aerophones. Horns are a type of "brass" or buzzed-lip instruments.

- Akogo - Akadongo – thumb piano

Many different names exist for this instrument; kalimba, sansa, and mbira are the most common ones. It consists of a series of flexible metal or cane tongues of varying lengths fixed to a wooden plate or trapezoidal sound box. Nowadays the resonator is made of kiaat wood, and the tines are made of high-quality spring steel. The musician holds the instrument in both hands and uses his thumbs to pluck the slightly upturned free end of the tines. The number and arrangement of the tines, or lameliae, vary regionally. The instrument accompanies a repertoire of "songs for thought," or laments, sung by both men and women.

In Buganda the instrument is known as "akadongo kabaluru" or "little instrument of the Alur tribe" from the northwest Nile region.

Drums in African tradition bring the power that drives a performance. Music is not merely entertainment, but it is ultimately bound to visual and dramatic arts as well as the larger fabric of life. Drums may be used for "talking"; that is, sending information and signals by imitating speech. Many African languages are both tonal (that is, meaning can depend on pitch inflections) and rhythmic (that is, accents may be durational), giving speech a musical quality that may be imitated by drums and other instruments. Drumming music and dance are almost always an accompaniment for any manner of ceremony; birth, marriages, funerals.

Engoma (Uganda drumset - percussion instrument) - While larger versions of this drum are traditionally hand-carved from old-growth hardwood trees, now these drums are made with pinewood slats tied together like barrels. Smaller drums are laminated and turned on a lathe and may be provided with a rope carrying the handle. All these drums have heads made from hide held by hardwood pegs hammered into the side of the drum.

- Embuutu - big drum - percussion instrument

- Namunjoloba small drum - percussion instrument

- Engalabi - long drum - percussion instrument

This traditional drum has a head made of reptile skin nailed to a wooden sound body. The engalabi from the Buganda region has an important roles in ceremonies and in theater. It is called "Okwabya olumbe". This is the installation of a successor to the deceased, thus the saying in Luganda (in Buganda a Bantu dialect) "Tugenda mungalabi", meaning we are going to the engalabi, that is, long drum. Rule in playing the drum is the use of bare hands.

- Ensaasi - shakers - percussion instrument

Shakers are made in pairs from gourds or shells, sometimes with stick handles, and are used to accompany other traditional instruments in Uganda. The central and northern (Alpaa) regions have shakers that produce a continuous sound as beads move from side to side in the gourd or shell. Generally, these shakers produce sounds by many small objects, such as pebbles, rattling together inside the body.

- Akacence - shakers - percussion instrument

- Ebinyege - Binyege (Entongoro) - rattles - percussion instrument

These originate in Bunyoro and Batooro (Toro) in Western Uganda along the roots of mountain Rwenzori. The seeds are put in these dry fruits to produce rhythmic patterns when shaken. Ebinyege are tied on the males legs to produce the sound and the Runyege dance (courtship dance of the Batooro) is named after the ebinyege, hence an important prop.

- Endege - ankle bells - percussion instrument

Dancers frequently have metal jingles tied on their ankles to articulate their movements.

- Agwata - percussion gourds - percussion instrument

- see more about Traditional instruments of the Uganda people and - Traditional dance of the Uganda people

Revised by Hermelinde Steiner 2017